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Golden Knights need to recapture ‘Vegas Flu’

More than two years after the first reported outbreak, a vaccine may have been developed for the Vegas flu.

T-Mobile Arena, one of the NHL’s most energetic and respected home venues, is no longer providing the Golden Knights with a steady stream of points. Instead the team’s previously vaunted home-ice advantage has utterly disappeared.

Sunday’s 5-0 loss to the New York Rangers was a stark reminder. The Knights were shut out at home for the first time since Feb. 19, 2018. They had given their fans at least one goal to cheer for in their previous 68 home games.

If treatment for the Vegas flu, the nickname for the Knights’ home-ice advantage, really is suddenly available, the team needs to adapt quickly. That starts Tuesday with a 7 p.m. date with the Chicago Blackhawks.

“I think teams are coming in here and playing hard because they know it’s such a tough building to play in,” right wing Ryan Reaves said. “We’re getting teams’ best, and sometimes we might not be mentally prepared for the push they’re coming with. I think it’s something we have to learn quick, because you have to take care of business on home ice to reach your goals.”

The Knights made the playoffs each of their first two seasons in part due to sterling home records. They were 29-10-2 at home in 2017-18, tied for the fifth-best home record in the league. They ranked eighth last season with a 24-12-5 mark.

After Sunday, they are 7-6-3, one of seven teams with more losses than wins at home. In home games, their 43.75 winning percentage is fifth worst and their 62.5 points percentage ranks ninth worst.

“It’s definitely something we want to get back,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “It’s definitely an advantage for us, and we haven’t taken advantage of it. We’ve got unbelievable fans.”

It isn’t just that the Knights are losing games at T-Mobile Arena. It’s how they are losing.

The Knights have been outscored 50-47 at home and have put together several disappointing efforts. They have lost by five goals on home ice twice already: Sunday against the Rangers and Oct. 25 against the Colorado Avalanche. They had done so only once previously in franchise history: March 14, 2018 against the New Jersey Devils.

“Last game was definitely frustrating,” left wing Max Pacioretty said. “We have to find a way to dig out of it.”

Breaking that home-ice lull might mean waking up their fans. The Knights so often in their first two seasons seemed to score early, whip the home crowd into a frenzy and ride that momentum into a win. That hasn’t happened nearly as often this season because they are prone to slow starts.

The Knights have scored first eight times in their 16 home games. They got the first goal in 25 of their 41 home games last season and 24 of 41 in 2017-18.

“If we score on our chances, I think that’s it,” center William Karlsson said. “When you have the crowd into it, it’s a whole lot more fun to play.”

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @GoldenEdgeRJ on Twitter.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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